The Solo Interviews: Celebrating the 2021 Solitaire Print and Play Contest

Welcome to the Solo Interviews, providing a platform for the designers, artists, YouTubers, and creatives of BGG’s 2021 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. We’ll dive into their gaming interests, their new games, and lessons learnt from designing games.
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Interview with Elias Heydrich, designer of Interplanetary

Today’s interview is with Elias Heydrich, whose entry Interplanetary puts you in charge of the space program of astronaut squirrels, building probes, spacecraft and research stations to discover the final frontier. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.

Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
As a child in the Kindergarten, never stopped since. My usual wishes for Christmas included the Spiel des Jahres for about a decade, so I had quite the collection before I was 15. At that time, my friends and I started to do board game nights (including the actual night) and when I was 20, my gaming horizon expanded into the international, getting exposed to ameritrash and other styles.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
Hanabi, The Crew, Elfenland Andor, The Lord of the Rings, Dominion.

How did you start designing games?
Actually, pretty much as a child too, coming up with (terrible) card games and the whatnot. However, I have only started to re-embrace boardgame design in recent years, the decades before that were video game design only. I was very active in the modding scene for various video games (including Warcraft III and Freespace 2) and since I am a software engineer by trade, development of interactive things is second nature.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
It is a complicated and demanding puzzle while still respecting the player's time investment. This is an evening-filling game, taking 1.5h to 2.5h, and that is very important to the theme. You are in charge of an entire planet's space program and your goal is to lead everybody to the stars, that is not achieved in 20 minutes. If you are interested in an "epic" game with very few random elements and are not afraid of a little barrier of entry, this is the game for you.

Also, the entire game is driven by you! No turns, no AI opponent, no random event deck, no automata upkeep. Space travel is challenging enough as it is.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
Rocket Fuel Management, although the reason behind that is super-simple: It comes with the theme, since that is an absolutely essential thing in space exploration. The concept of the rocket equation is not usually not featured in board games but no pseudo-realistic approach to space travel is complete without it.

Oversimplifying things: The bigger your rocket, the harder it is too move.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
The sheer size and scale of the undertaking, including its balancing... It is incredibly hard to find the sweet spot, especially since you want to reward immersive tactics (like sending probes to other worlds) while preventing the emergence of a dominant strategy. Since the game is long, iteration cycles are longer and feedback is sparser.

And, then there is the elephant in the room: While I have been very upfront and open about the weight-class this game resides in, explaining a game of this complexity to another person is still one hell of a barrier-of-entry. The rulebook is pretty much 30 pages, which already scares a large portion of the audience away. Still, this is my most successful contest-game thus far, considering the metrics available. So I probably managed to overcome this challenge at least for a small part of the potential audience....

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
Defective - A Future Dystopia Crime Game sounds great. I have a particular fascination with detective games ever since Cluedo (a deeply flawed game). By that I mean an experience in which one has to make actual logical reasoning. I have not played it yet and but surely will once I got the time.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
'All Is Bomb' by Blaž Gracar: What the hell is up with that title?

Editor's note: to hear more from Elias, head over to AD's Board Games channel on YouTube, where Elias talked extensively about his experience of designing Interplanetary, love for designer diaries, and design approach.

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